This month, Rainer Jenss and his family started their trip around the world, and they'll be sending us dispatches from the road over the course of the next year. Check back each week to keep up with the Jensses and see where they're headed next.
“Jeez Dad . . . It’s not Americana, it’s American!” Tyler barks at me with his typical 11-year-old sarcasm and "know-it-all" attitude. “Why do you keep saying it wrong?” Looks like we both will be learning a thing or two about the true meaning of this word during the first – and longest – leg of our round-the-world tour.
I can’t seem to remember which incident sparked this reaction during the first half of our seven-week drive across the country, there were so many occasions to have uttered it. Ever since we passed through the border patrol in Port Huron, Michigan after our brief stint in Canada, we’ve encountered one uniquely American experience after another, starting with the food.
Carol will tell you that the biggest adjustment so far to life on the road is the almost incessant need to eat out. When we were offered the opportunity to stay in a house in northern Michigan by a colleague of mine (thank you Karen), little did we realize that perhaps its biggest draw would be the chance to eat home-cooked meals for a few days. Never have I seen my wife more excited to go to a grocery store!
To deal with the constant quest for appropriate family-friendly dining, our investment in the book Roadfood proved fruitful. Far from a Zagat’s, this book highlights some of the best local eateries along our nation’s most traveled roads, according to Jane and Michael Stern, a husband-and-wife pair who have traversed the country writing about food for 30 years. If nothing spells America more than M-c-D-o-n-a-l-d-s, perhaps we are doing this country a disservice by not recognizing the likes of Thompson’s Restaurant in Bingham, Maine; Lou Malnati’s Pizzeria in Chicago; Bob’s Café in Sioux Falls, South Dakota; and the Sundance Café in Dubois, Wyoming. For me, these are the places that serve up real "American" cuisine. Sure, most of them offer regular menu of burgers, pizza, and greasy fried food we normally try to avoid, but it’s the atmosphere in which they are served that makes them oh so Americana.